Powys to Powis

Powys (with a 'y') was a medieval Welsh kingdom which in the twelfth century was divided into northern and southern portions respectively known as Powys Ado and Powys Wenwynwyn. Powys Wenwynwyn, named after its ruler Gwenwynwyn ab Owain between the years 1197 and 1216, passed into the hands of his son Gruffudd ap Gwenwynwyn, who preferred to rule as a vassal of the English king rather than submit to the dominion of neighbouring Gwynedd.

Powys Wenwynwyn therefore became the Marcher Lordship of Powis (with an 'i') administered by its own line of native Lords who, from the time of Gruffudd's son Owain adopted the surname of de la Pole. This Marcher Lordship of Powis later passed through female inheritance into the hands of, firstly to the Cherleton family and then in 1421 to a branch of the Grey family. With the death of Edward Grey on the 2nd July 1551, this Grey line died out, by which time of course the Acts of Union had transformed the Marcher Lordship into a mere barony.

Herbert

In 1587 Edward Herbert, a younger son of William Herbert, Earl of Pembroke, acquired Powis Castle and some estates within the former Marcher Lordship of Powis. Edward remained true to the Roman Catholic faith and it is therfore perhaps not surprising that his son William married Eleanor Percy, a daughter of the 8th Earl of Northumberland, a similarly Catholic family.

This William was granted the title of Baron Powis by Charles I in 1629 and remained a committed royalist throughout the English Civil War, holding Powis castle for the king until 1644, when it was stormed by Thomas Myddelton of nearby Chirk Castle. His son Percy was similarly comitted to the cause of the king and was convicted of treason in 1651 but sentenced only to a period of imprisonment.

Naturally, once the monarchy had been restored the Herberts were in better favour and Percy's son another William Herbert, the 3rd Baron was created Earl of Powis on the 4th April 1673. The Herberts remained a staunchly Catholic family and William became the nominal leader of the Roman Catholic aristocracy within England, although he was also noted for his toleration and known for his protection of Quakers. He was later accused of involvement in a plot to depose Charles II and replace him with his brother James and imprisoned in the Tower of London between 1678 to 1684 although he was never actually convicted of any offence.

With the accession of the openly Roman Catholic James II, William was naturally very much in favour with the king and was created Viscount Montgomery and Marquess of Powis. He was also appointed to the Privy Council and employed by the crown to regulate corporations. The 1st Marquess was very much attached to the king and following James' deposition in 1688, he followed him into exile in France. William was even created 'Duke of Powis' on the 12th January 1689 before he died in 1696.

He was succeeded by his son William, the 2nd Marquess, who had problems in getting hold of the family fortune as the family's estates had been seized by the government due to his father's loyalty to the deposed king. They were eventually restored to him in 1722, although his sympathies remained with the Jacobite cause. He died in October 1745, and was succeeded by his son William, the 3rd Marquess, who died three years later in 1748, at which point the complete lack of any male descendants rendered the title extinct.

More Herberts

There was another branch of the Herbert family from Cherbury who unlike the Montgomery Herberts were keen Protestants and opponents of James II, one of whom Admiral Arthur Herbert was given the task of taking the formal invitation penned by the Immortal Seven across the English Channel to William of Orange, and commanded the fleet that brought William to England to complete his bloodless conquest of 1688. (Arthur was later created Earl of Torrington as a result.)

The late William Herbert, frustrated at disputes within the family over money, left Powis Castle and his estates to one of these Cherbury Herberts, namely his ninth cousin, Henry Arthur Herbert and Baron Herbert of Cherbury, rather than his obvious heir his niece Barbara Herbert. Naturally his niece wasn't happy, but Henry Arthur solved this particular problem by marrying said niece, despite their disparity of age (he was 48 and she was 16).

As a good Protestant Henry Arthur was fairly rapidly promoted within the peerage by being created the Earl of Powis in 1748, becoming the 1st Earl of the second Herbert creation. He was followed by his son George Edward Herbert in 1772, but George Edward died without issue in 1801, rendering the second line of Herebert earls a extinct as the first.

Clive and Herbert

On George's death his estates passed to his sister Henrietta Antonia Herbert. She had married Edward Clive, a younger son of the famous Clive of India who had been created Baron Clive of Walcot in 1794. Edward was Governor of Madras from 1798 to 1803 and on his return to Britain he was granted the titles Baron Powis and Earl of Powis in 1804. On his death in 1829 he was succeeded by his son Edward, who had earlier adopted the name of Herbert in 1807; he was a Member of Parliament from 1806 to 1839 and was elected as chancellor of the University of Cambridge in 1847 shortly before his death in 1848.

He was followed by his eldest son Edward James Herbert but he died unmarried in 1891 and was succeeded by his nephew George Charles Herbert, son of Percy Egerton Herbert, who fought in the Crimean War. George was Earl for over sixty years and managed to outlive both his sons; Percy Robert Herbert who was killed in World War I and the wonderfully named Mervyn Horatio Herbert Herbert who similarly died in action, this time in World War II, although not before being created the Viscount Clive. Neither of these sons had any male issue and George was therefore succeeded by a cousin Edward Robert Henry Herbert, a descendant of the third son of the 2nd Earl.

Edward Robert died without issue and was followed by his brother Christian Victor who did the same. The title therefore passed to a cousin (a descendant of the youngest son of the 2nd Earl) George William Herbert who became the 7th Earl in 1988.

The current holder is John George Herbert, the 8th Earl of Powis, son of George William who also holds the titles of Viscount Clive, Baron Powis, Baron Herbert of Chirbury, and Baron Clive of Walcot. The eldest son and heir apparent uses the courtesy title of the Viscount Clive.


THE EARLS OF POWIS
(including the Herbert Barons and Marquesses)

HERBERT of the first creation

The 3rd Lord was created Earl of Powis on the 4th April 1673

created Marquess of Powis by James II in 1685

The 3rd Marquess was also created Duke of Powis in the Jacobite Peerage

HERBERT of the second creation

CLIVE/HERBERT of the third creation


SOURCES

  • Powis Castle ~ Powys, Wales at http://www.heritage.me.uk/castles/powis_castle.htm
  • The 1911 Encyclopedia Brittanica entry for POWIS, EARLS AND MARQUESSES OF
    See http://1911encyclopedia.org/index.htm
  • Charles Arnold Baker The Companion to British History (Longcross Press, 1996)
  • THE ENGLISH PEERAGE or, a view of the ANCIENT and PRESENT STATE of the ENGLISH NOBILITY London: (1790)
    see http://www.genuki.org.uk/big/eng/History/Barons/
  • A genealogical survey of the peerage of Britain at www.thepeerage.com

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